What's Driving Chef Massimo Bottura on His New Adventures

From left: Andrea Wyner; Courtesy Massimo Bottura

Before the opening of Gucci Osteria in Los Angeles, the celebrated chef lets us in on what keeps him hungry.

Departures is published by Meredith Corp. and owned by American Express. While American Express Card Member benefits are highlighted in this publication, including through the links indicated below, the content of this article was independently written by the editorial staff at Meredith. Other Departures content paid for by American Express is explicitly marked as such.

The secret to success, according to Massimo Bottura? “Obsession.” He would know: His recent accomplishments include a place on the Time 100 list; three Michelin stars and a spot at the top of the World’s Best Restaurants for his Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy; the global expansion of his soup kitchen project, Food for Soul; a forthcoming restaurant collaboration with Ferrari; the opening of a boutique hotel; and the arrival of Gucci Osteria in Los Angeles, following the whirlwind success of the first iteration, in Florence.

A sketch of the Gucci Osteria in Los Angeles, opening on the rooftop of the Rodeo Drive store. Ryuto Miyake for Gucci

But when Bottura, a Global Dining Collection Chef, defines what drives him, he isn’t referring to ruthless ambition. He’s speaking of the way his many aesthetic fascinations—contemporary art, music, fast cars, Slow Food, the “right” design—inform his work. “My passions are my obsessions,” he says, and his talent for conveying complicated ideas through his fare—which fuses tradition with an avant-garde approach honed through jobs working under Alain Ducasse and Ferran Adrià—has made him a legend both in his hometown of Modena and in the culinary world at large. It’s also made him a noted figure in contemporary art, not just for his own lauded collection but for his visual compositions on the plate. “It’s very personal,” he says. “There are stories behind every dish.”

From left: Refettorio Felix in London is one of Bottura's community kitchens; the first thing Bottura did when decorating his boutique hotel, Casa Maria Luigia in Moena, was to create a music room. From left: Carol Sachs; Courtesy Massimo Bottura

That personal approach is one he shares with Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, another wildly successful Italian known for tweaking classical themes. “He looks at the past in a very critical way—never nostalgic—to bring the best of it into the future,” says Bottura. “It’s exactly what I do with cuisine.” Eighteen months after Gucci Osteria opened in Florence, it won a Michelin star. The new L.A. outpost is similar in size to its Florentine inspiration—around 48 seats—with decor similarly conceived by Michele. But Bottura is quick to point out that they have no intention of making a carbon copy. “Every single project has its own personality,” he says. “Los Angeles is such an amazing place—so bubbly, so alive right now.”

Bottura recently purchased Duane Hanson's Flea Market Lady, which will be installed in Osteria Francescana. Courtesy Serpentine Galleries

It helps that he’s in a particularly open state of mind these days, which he attributes in part to his work with the fashion house. “Welcome to my world, as Alessandro would say; once you are in—in my kitchen, in my food—it’s difficult not to love it.”